facial masks for spring, estee lauder perfectly clean, fango calm mask, derma-e charcoal mask, allegresse collagen mask, sulwahsoo overnight vitalizing mask
Facial mask is not just a skincare routine, I equate it to me-time; that one-hour of uninterrupted bliss composed of skincare cocktail from exfoliation, facial mask, layering of serum, antioxidant, moisturizer and beauty oil is the perfect treat for this overworked horse. I look forward to at-home facial mask, at least three times a week, with ambience and all, nirvana! I have featured several masks on the blog but I thought I'd fill you in with some items that are currently in rotation. Here they  are!
press samples and affiliate links provided below
sulwhasoo overnight vitalizing mask
I have talked about Korean luxury brand Sulwhasoo here but in a nutshell, this overnight mask, as the name implies, is no-rinse kind of mask. You leave it on overnight on top of other skincare products (if you layer) to seal in the moisture. In the morning, your skin will look and feel more hydrated, at least based from my experience. I use it average three times a week and it works in harmony with other skincare products I use at any given time. Sulwhasoo products utilize herbal extracts with medicinal benefits popular in Korea and Asia such as panax ginseng (anti-inflammatory, antioxidant), walnut extract (moisture retention), white mulberry (reduce redness), among others.
I have also talked about derma e products many times on the blog because they have good quality without breaking the bank. This charcoal mask is a nice treat because it exfoliates and decongests pores of dirt and excess sebum. I leave it on for about 15 minutes then remove with damp washcloth. Fango Calm is a clay mask with lavender extract (soothing for the skin) and lemon seed extract (antioxidant). This deluxe-size is part of the sampler pack limited Holiday edition.
Estee Lauder Perfectly Clean is 2-in-1, a foam cleanser and purifying mask. I leave it on for ten minutes then wash face. My face feels somewhat taut after using it and squeaky clean, ready for the next steps in skincare. I have featured Allegresse skincare here but it a nutshell, the company utilizes a hint of gold in all their products. What I like about this mask is not really the gold (which by the way is listed last in the ingredients) but the natural component infused such as avocado oil, cocoa seed butter, lavender extract, sage, among others. The fragrance is quite strong but it does not really bother me. It's a bit pricey ($85) but I see this featured at Hautelook (designer brand discount shop) several times so if you see it, snag it!

gentle makeup removers, Pixi Caroline Hirons Double Cleanse, Pixi Nourishing Cleansing Balm, Erborian Solid Cleansing Oil, Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Oil, derma e makeup remover
I don't know about you but removing makeup is just as exciting as putting it on, especially if you have many options to choose from! It's like entering a candy store and you just want to hoard every flavor, texture, and shape there is. Guys may never understand it but hey, we're not born to be understood either, haha! But seriously, I have tried aplenty and there are still more I need to road-test; but given my growing stash of makeup removers, I thought I'd give you a buzz of what I liked and repurchased so far.
press samples and affiliate links provided below
gentle makeup removers
Repurchased many times, Neutrogena Cleansing Towelettes is one of my staples for as long as I can remember. I keep one at my vanity for quick makeup removal but more so when I wipe arm swatches and whatnot. I keep one at work too in case I need to remove makeup (i.e test out a procedure or the new makeup I am trying melts horribly).

Some mascaras are tough to remove (i.e Maybelline Colossal Big Shot) so they require extra reinforcement. I alternately use Pixi Lash Nourish Pad and iLashcare Protein Remover & Primer Pads (bought from Hautelook), both of which are excellent for lash extensions or faux lashes.
gentle makeup removers, Pixi Caroline Hirons Double Cleanse, Pixi Nourishing Cleansing Balm, Erborian Solid Cleansing Oil, Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Oil, derma e makeup remover
I talked about Sulwhasoo, a luxury Korean skincare brand, in detail here but in a nutshell, this cleansing oil is possibly one of the gentlest makeup remover in my stash. You apply 1-2 drops, massage your face to help melt and break down the makeup, then rinse with warm water. Or in my case, I take it up a notch by gently rubbing my face with damp warm towel after all the makeup is dissolved. derma e recently revamped its packaging so you will see a different version of this makeup remover online and elsewhere. I am not entirely sure if they changed the ingredients but nevertheless, this particular chamomile and cucumber-infused makeup remover is 100% vegan and paraben-free.
gentle makeup removers, Pixi Caroline Hirons Double Cleanse, Pixi Nourishing Cleansing Balm, Erborian Solid Cleansing Oil, Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Oil, derma e makeup remover
I'm happy to have found Erborian at my local Sephora's K-Beauty section because I have been meaning to try this Korean skincare brand for a while now. This solid cleansing oil had me at aloha, I'm in love with it because it does a great job of removing all makeup and gunk without feeling greasy! It has a spatula which makes scooping all the more hygienic. The fragrance is quite on the strong side but it doesn't bother me a bit. The ingredient list is mostly plant-based (7 herbs) and is paraben-free.
gentle makeup removers, Pixi Caroline Hirons Double Cleanse, Pixi Nourishing Cleansing Balm, Erborian Solid Cleansing Oil, Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Oil, derma e makeup remover
If you're a skincare junkie, I am more than certain that you know or have heard of Caroline Hirons, UK-based popular aesthetician who also runs the eponymous blog and Youtube channel where she regularly reviews skincare brands. Her collaboration with Pixi yielded Double Cleanse, a 2-step approach to cleansing vis-a-vis removing makeup. The jar is divided in shape of yin yang (I am not sure if this concept was patterned after it) but keen eyes caught it; step 1 is solid cleansing oil (similar to Pixi Nourishing Balm sans fragrance), it's meant to remove makeup; step 2 is cleansing cream which is meant to "further clean" the face or as prep for the next steps in your skincare. I know what you're thinking, is the 2-step approach really necessary? No and yes, supported by several scenarios for your better judgement:
(1) No because either one (oil or cream) will remove makeup; hence it boils down to preference. I like oil better because it dissolves hardcore makeup like a boss (long-wearing foundation and mascara). The cream is a nifty add-on, a moisturizer for the most part
(2) Yes if you're OCD (and I use that loosely) with cleansing. In my case (before discovering this product), I use whatever is in my current rotation, wipe with damp washcloth, then proceed with facial cleanser using Foreo as medium. In days I am not convinced enough that my face is thoroughly cleansed, I use toner afterwards
(3) Yes if you're lazy with skincare. I know it just contradicted my statement above but hear me out first. Since this is a makeup remover with extra hydration on the side, you can totally skip skincare for a night, i.e following super late meetings or parties. Good excuse to have this on standby. 

what are your favorite ways to remove makeup?

Pixi Beauty Maryam Maquillage Strobe & Bronze Glow & Bronze Palette & Strobe & Sculpt Highlight & Contour Palette
As mentioned from my previous post, Pixi recently collaborated with influential bloggers and vloggers which are pretty exciting! As a beauty-obsessed consumer myself (and blogger on the side), I scour the internet for online reviews before making a purchase. For today's installation, I am bringing you Maryam Maquillage from Youtube who does amazing makeup tutorials!
press samples and affiliate links provided below
Pixi Beauty Maryam Maquillage Strobe & Bronze Glow & Bronze Palette & Strobe & Sculpt Highlight & Contour Palette
Maryam has three products under her wing: the Strobe & Bronze Glow & Bronze Palette, Strobe & Sculpt Highlight & Contour Palette, and Strobe & Sculpt dual-ended brush. Both palettes retail for $20 at Target, $30+ elsewhere. The makeup brush on the other hand retails for $14. The palettes somehow remind me of Anastasia Glow Kit, except that Pixi has 6 shades in each compared to Anastasia's 4 (review). If you are a highlighting/strobing/contouring junkie, I think both palettes will appeal to you especially if you factor in their affordability and commendable quality. While contouring is not part of my daily beauty regimen, I still find the darker shades contained in both palettes handy and useable in other areas. For instance, I use them as eyeshadows or to fill in my eyebrows, such is the case in my makeup look below.  I find both names of the palettes confusing because realistically speaking, it's quite a mouthful to say and even lengthy to remember. When I was still doing marketing management back in the day, it's imperative for us to name a product and/or brand that is easy for the average consumer to (1) read (2) understand (3) remember. We conduct focus group for target demographics to test out not just the quality of the product itself but also the packaging, name, promotions, among others. So given that I get to see, swatch and test these palettes myself, I for one can't still separate one from the other based on the names they were given.  But here's how I differentiate them...
Pixi Beauty Maryam Maquillage Strobe & Bronze Glow & Bronze Palette & Strobe & Sculpt Highlight & Contour Palette
Pixi Beauty Maryam Maquillage Strobe & Bronze Glow & Bronze Palette & Strobe & Sculpt Highlight & Contour Palette
Strobe & Bronze Glow & Bronze Palette is more cool-toned. What makes is stand out for me is the mauve-pink shimmer and buttery-soft matte bronzers that are all easy to apply and blend. Feeling a little fancy? you can use the other shades as blush, if applied sparingly so you don't look like a disco ball in daylight.
Pixi Beauty Maryam Maquillage Strobe & Bronze Glow & Bronze Palette & Strobe & Sculpt Highlight & Contour Palette
Pixi Beauty Maryam Maquillage Strobe & Bronze Glow & Bronze Palette & Strobe & Sculpt Highlight & Contour Palette
Strobe & Sculpt Highlight & Contour Palette is more warm in terms of color assortment. I love the peachy shade, I think it's perfect for spring and summer! This palette has 3 mattes (pale flesh, chocolate and dark brown).
Pixi Beauty Maryam Maquillage Strobe & Bronze Glow & Bronze Palette & Strobe & Sculpt Highlight & Contour Palette
I like that Maryam thought about adding a brush because what's strobing and contouring without the tool right? This dual-ended brush has partly densed soft bristles that stroke the face ever so gentle. The quality justifies the tag price and no matter how trivial it sounds, the plastic holder is a nifty add-on, it's great for travel!

Do you need both? from a practical standpoint, I say no but get the palette that appeals to you first. I naturally gravitate towards warm tones so Strobe & Scuplt Highlight & Contour palette (the one with peach shade) is my number one choice. Hence, it's the same palette I used for my makeup below. I used the darker shades to fill-in my eyebrows, lower lash line and crease shade. I used the shimmery light shades on cheekbone, nose bridge and lids.
Pixi Beauty Maryam Maquillage Strobe & Bronze Glow & Bronze Palette & Strobe & Sculpt Highlight & Contour Palette
Pixi Beauty Maryam Maquillage Strobe & Bronze Glow & Bronze Palette & Strobe & Sculpt Highlight & Contour Palette
Pixi Beauty Maryam Maquillage Strobe & Bronze Glow & Bronze Palette & Strobe & Sculpt Highlight & Contour Palette

What do yo think of these palettes?

tatcha pore perfecting water gel moisturizer, farmacy lip bloom, kai eau de perfume, goody ouchless, maybelline colossal mascara , pixi 24k eye elixir
Welcome to another edition of my monthly curated favorites. In a nutshell, these are the things that I want to see in a subscription box if I were to release my own. A girl can dream right? But seriously, it's a hodgepodge of new discoveries this month or mainstays that I have been using a lot lately, both of which share a common denominator, they were not given the spotlight they deserve! So here they are, my February must-haves!
press samples and affiliate links below
Don't laugh but hair ties especially these ones from Goody made it to my list! But really, no matter how much you load up on hair ties, they just magically disappear like Houdini. And tell me if you can relate, most hair ties aren't properly configured to fit an average woman's hair. Tie once and it's loose, tie twice and it's still loose, tie around three times and it feels like your brain is going to pop, haha! But finally, I found what I call my holy grail because twice the tie is really enough, Ouchless. Now that's what I call truth in advertising. 
maybelline colossal mascara review
Despite my penchant for high-end makeups, I cannot justify spending for a $30-mascara that is formulated the same as a drugstore brand. The ones I have tried in the past (i.e Marc Jacobs, Guerlain, Givenchy) perform just the same so I'd rather divert that moolah to something more covetable! And yes, mascara generally performs better after a week or two of religious use in terms of creating lift and volume. Maybelline Colossal Big Shot is a classic example! If you recall, my lashes became weak and sparse with lash extensions (I already stopped doing it) so while I am waiting for them to grow back to their previous state, I resorted to wearing false lashes in the interim. But in days that I am just too lazy to glam up, I turn to mascara and boy, I am glad to have found this gem! It does make my lashes look quite long and voluminous. Most of all, it's budge-proof! Removing it requires an oil-based product though because it is mighty-tough. But I love it so a repurchase is definitely happening.
 24K Eye Elixir Energizing Peptide Serum
Pixi is killing it lately in skincare and their 24K Eye Elixir Energizing Peptide Serum fits the bill! I use this mostly in the morning under eye concealer to prevent a cakey look. As you can see, it has rollerball which feels cool on application. While I don't see it de-puff my under eyes, it does provide commendable hydration. I wonder how much gold is in the product itself but I spotted it in the list of ingredients (buried towards the latter end) so save for gimmickry, I still like it for what it does: moisturization without the greasy feel.

Ingredients: Water, Dipropylene Glycol, Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Allantoin, Ethylhexylglycerin, Arginine, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Disodium EDTA, Adenosine, Trideceth-10, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract, Butylene Glycol, Iron Oxides (CI 15985, CI 17200), Steareth-20, 1,2-Hexanediol, Hydrolyzed Collagen, N-Hydroxysuccinimide, Chlorhexidine Digluconate, Potassium Sorbate, Gold, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Chrysin, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7.
Farmacy Lip Bloom
Long time readers of this blog know my obsession over liquid lipsticks and matte lipsticks. But see, dry and cracked lips kill the beauty and drama of it all so I find it imperative to hydrate my lips all the time. A recent discovery happens to be Farmacy Lip Bloom (citrus lemongrass). Aside from the invigorating fragrance, the combination of botanical oils give my dry puckers much-needed hydration  especially this time of the year. The texture and formula is akin to a lipgloss sans tackiness. I may pick up two more variants (Vanilla Mint and Honey Ginger) to keep one in the office and the other in my purse.

Ingredients: Bis-Diglyceryl Polyacyladipate-2, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Patented Echinacea Purpurea 'Greenenvytm' Root Extract, Rhus Verniciflua Peel Wax / Rhus Succedanea Fruit Wax, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Flavor, Stevia Rebaudiana Leaf Extract, Glyceryl Behenate/ Eicosadioate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Tocopherol.
Kai Eau De Parfum
I bought Kai Eau De Parfum last Fall and has used it since, in rotation with other perfumes from my stash. If you love gardenia and exotic scents, then you will love Kai as much as I do. It's feminine and floral but not overpowering. The scent lasts all day, at least based on my personal experience. I will repurchase it for sure together with their lotion for uniformed layering.
Tatcha Pore Perfecting Water Gel Moisturizer
My morning skincare is not as elaborate as nighttime. Basically it's just antioxidant serum and moisturizer/sunscreen just so my makeup won't look too dewy. Since I have combination skin, water-based moisturizer works best for me (I will dedicate another post for this). Tatcha Pore Perfecting Water Gel Moisturizer sits well on the skin while providing adequate hydration and perfect base for makeup. It is lightweight and its hint of gold renders a lit-from-within glow which mimics healthy skin. I'm in love so a repurchase is imminent down the line.

Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Propanediol, Rosa Multiflora Fruit Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Inositol (Rice Extract), Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Sophora Angustifolia Root Extract, Belamcanda Chinensis Root Extract, Houttuynia Cordata Extract, Sericin (Silk Extract), Stearyl Glycyrrhetinate (Licorice), Algae Extract, Gold, Hydrogenated Lecithin (Soy Origin), Squalane (Olive Origin), Lecithin, Pistacia Lentiscus (Mastic) Gum, Sodium Dilauramidoglutamide Lysine, Mica, Silica, Xanthan Gum, Bispeg- 18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane, Ammonium Acryloyl Dimethyltaurate/Carboxyethyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Hdi/ Trimethylol Hexyllactone Crosspolymer, Polyglyceryl-10 Myristate, Disodium EDTA, Tin Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Peg-400, Bht, Butylene Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol.

Here's the usual me when I don't feel like wearing eye makeup and styling my hair. Messy updo and bright lips is my signature look.

tom ford matte ruby rush
Lipstick: Tom Ford Matte Ruby Rush. Hair in a bun using Goody. Lashes volumized by Maybelline Colossal

Pixi Beauty ItsJudyTime ItsEyetime Eyeshadow ItsLipTime Palettes swatch review
If you read beauty blogs, chances are, you also watch Youtube beauty videos. Pixi recently collaborated with select bloggers and vloggers, each creating their own must-haves. I have been watching Judy Travis from ItsJudyTime for years now so I am particularly excited for her palettes. Judy is known for her down-to-earth personality and simple makeup looks. She's a stay-at-home mom of three who made Youtube her career (1.4 million subs). She is very relatable and keeps things basic, which  in my opinion makes her endearing to her audience, myself included. She has two palettes currently sold at Target (and other beauty shops online), the ItsEyeTime and ItsLiptime. Scroll down for complete details, swatches, including my daytime office look using both palettes.
press samples and affiliate links below
Pixi Beauty ItsJudyTime ItsEyetime Eyeshadow ItsLipTime Palettes swatch review
ItsJudytime ItsEyetime and ItsLiptime are both housed in Pixi's signature clear-top plastic cover and mint green case. Each shade is named (printed at the back side) which all sound familiar if you watch Judy on a regular basis (i.e Honey bear, Julianna bear, Miya bear, Keira bear). They also come with sticky mirror which you can attach to the cover if you prefer a palette with mirror. 
Pixi Beauty ItsJudyTime ItsEyetime Eyeshadow ItsLipTime Palettes swatch review
Pixi eyeshadow palettes are generally hit and miss for me but this time around, I think all the shades turned out pretty decent in terms of pigmentation, ease of use, color selection, and wear time. ItsEyetime eyeshadow palette features predominantly warm neutral shades which are great for quick and easy daytime looks. The mattes are soft and non-powdery and although they swatched light on my arm, they are quite easy to blend using fluffy crease brush. The metallic shades (especially Getaway, brown/maroon) are pigmented and best applied either wet (with flat eyeshadow brush for foiled effect) or dry (with finger for a concentrated yet blendable look). There are 5 mattes, 4 metallics, 2 satins, and 1 matte with glitter specks. 
Pixi Beauty ItsJudyTime ItsEyetime Eyeshadow ItsLipTime Palettes swatch review
Left to right:
snowflake is metallic champagne
Bubbly is metallic golf
itsmommyslife is satin warm brown
Good Morning is matte orange brown
Brick is satin brick
Honey Bear is matte warm brown
Tu Tu is matte mauve brown
Getaway is metallic brown-maroon
Ping is metallic chocolate brown
Dark Chocolate is matte dark brown
Aww Snap is matte maroon brown
Night Night is jet black matte with glitter specks
Pixi Beauty ItsJudyTime ItsEyetime Eyeshadow ItsLipTime Palettes swatch review
Generally I'm not a fan of lip palettes because while I get to try different shades, I just find them unhygienic (double or triple dipping either with lip brush or finger) and not travel-friendly. Unless you are a makeup artist who appreciates lip palettes due to variety of shades, I'd rather prefer the typical bullet-type lipsticks. Quality-wise and I have the cold weather partly to blame, the shades are difficult to pick up and apply either with finger or lip brush, especially the nudes (top 2 rows). The darker ones (bottom 2 rows) are okay but nothing mind-blowing. They all feel quite waxy on the lips and unless you mix and match, I find the colors uninspiring. But here's a hack ladies, you can use them as cheek/blush colors especially the top 2 rows. Lightly applied with finger, properly blended with brush and sealed with blush powder (or setting powder), they render a nice pop of color akin to pinched cheeks. 
Pixi Beauty ItsJudyTime ItsEyetime Eyeshadow ItsLipTime Palettes swatch review
Left to right:
Ta-da is peachy nude
Peaches is peach
Julianna Bear is pinky brown
Milk Chocolate is light brown
Keira Bear is rosy nude
Miya Bear is dark rosy nude
B Did It is dark pink
Falling Leaves is brown plum
Chewy is plum
Fierce is maroon
Sweet Cherry is red
Fierce is dark red
Pixi Beauty ItsJudyTime ItsEyetime Eyeshadow ItsLipTime Palettes makeup looks
Pixi Beauty ItsJudyTime ItsEyetime Eyeshadow ItsLipTime Palettes makeup looks
For my makeup look, I used Bubbly on my lids, Good Morning on crease and Dark Chocolate on outer corner. I mixed Peaches, Juliana Brown and Milk Chocolate on my lips. I added faux lashes for little bit of flair. Pose here and there and I'm out the door, haha!

what do you think of these palettes?

beauty oils for combination skin, facial oils for combination skin
Industry fact: you'd be surprised to know that sales of beauty oil has surpassed another skincare staple, serums. And it is for a reason! Most women are starting to understand their benefits on skin (mainly normal to dry, including aging skin). They are gentler as most are naturally-derived, and from a marketing standpoint, the bottles all convey a certain prestige to them which target the silent but growing cult of users with discriminating taste in skincare. Just like makeups and other skincare products (moisturizer, toner, serum), finding your holy grail beauty oil is a an arduous task but once you nailed what works and doesn't, the guessing game is over. One of the most common questions I get asked is how to introduce beauty oil to your current regimen, or better yet, does it replace your favorite serum or moisturizer? If you follow the layering steps, you should apply beauty oil last specifically in dry or patchy areas (cleanse, tone, serum, moisturizer, oil). If you're low maintenance, by all means you can just slather beauty oil. The layering steps are not carved in stone, they are there for guidance and for the most part, it's plain marketing. Beauty oil will not reverse aging but a well moisturized skin makes wrinkles less noticeable. Now that's out of the way, I want to share some beauty oils that are compatible with combination skin plus a quick mention of the one and only spot treatment oil that works for me whenever I have breakouts!
press sample and affiliate links
beauty oils for combination skin, facial oils for combination skin. ahava dead sea crystal osmoter
Ahava Dead Sea Crystal Osmoter ($77, 30ml) is an oil-based serum utilizing rich minerals sourced from the Dead Sea. Dead Sea salts reportedly carry 21 minerals which includes magnesium, calcium, potassium, zinc among others. Used topically, dead sea salt helps retain water which in turn keeps skin hydrated. This is a lightweight facial oil. I use it interchangeably, over an antioxidant serum or as last step to skincare. Used alone, it gives a dewy and well-hydrated appearance.

Ingredients: Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Cyclohexasiloxane Aqua (Mineral Spring Water), Maris Aqua (Dead Sea Water), Cyclomethicone, Ethyl Macadamiate, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Propanediol (Corn derived Glycol), Isodecyl Isononanoate, Glycerin, Diisobutyl Adipate, Parfum (Fragrance), Hippophae Rhamnoides (Oblipicha) Fruit Oil, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-di-t-butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Borago Officinalis Seed Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Hypericum Perforatum Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Malic Acid, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citronellol, Geraniol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Linalool.

beauty oils for combination skin, facial oils for combination skin, pix rose oil blend
Pixi Rose Oil Blend (30 ml/ 1.01 fl oz) is proof that you don't need to splurge on department store brands to get the same result. Retailing for only $24, the carefully selected botanical blends render quite a prestige feel and look to it, from the rosy fragrance to the actual application itself. Sometimes I use two drops to mix with my foundation for a dewy makeup look. The fragrance maybe a bit too much to some people but it doesn't bother me a bit.

Ingredients: Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Rosa Canina Fruit Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil, Rosa Damascena Flower Oil, Punica Granatum Seed Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil. 

beauty oils for combination skin, facial oils for combination skin, rms beauty oil

RMS Beauty Oil has thick consistency but it is great for patchy and dry areas especially during winter months. Purely organic, it uses different oils that help moisturize the skin without making it look greasy (if used sparingly). I use it over moisturizer in some nights that I layer. The fragrance is not the best out there though, it reminds me of the oil my grandma used to rub my belly with whenever I have stomach cramps back in the day. 

Ingredients: *Golden Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, *Rosa Mosqueta (Rosehip) Seed Oil, Herbs Infused in *Golden Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil: *Hypericum Perforatum (St. John’s Wort), *Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail), *Calendula Officinalis (Marigold), *Hemidesmus Indicus (Country Sarsaparilla), *Curcuma Longa (Turmeric), *Withania Somnifara (Ashwagandha),*Glycyrrhiza Glabia (Licorice), *Olea Europaea (Olive Leaf), *Buriti (Mauritia Flexuosa) Oil, *Calophyllum Inophyllum (Tamanu) Seed Oil, Tocopherol (non-GMO), *Vanilla Planifolia (Vanilla) Extract. *Certified Organic 

beauty oils for combination skin, facial oils for combination skin, sibu sea berry seed oil for acne
Sibu Sea Berry Seed Oil ($15.95, 10ml) is a great natural alternative to over the counter pimple zappers. Aside from containing antioxidants, sea berry has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. It works on mild breakouts and because it is oil, there is no unsightly dryness associated during the healing process. Ready for the shortest ingredient list? read, only one!

Ingredients: 100% Therapeutic-grade Sea Berry (sea buckthorn) Seed Oil

What are your go-to facial oils?

hyaluronic acid in skincare, sodium hyaluronate in skincare

Following a well-received post last week (Vitamin C in Skincare),  I am back with another edition of "The Truth", this time I am shedding light on another popular skincare ingredient, hyaluronic acid. But first, let's understand few basics so you and I are on the same boat.
  • Make it a habit to read the label, knowledge is power. In a nutshell, ingredients are listed in descending order using their standard names as found in the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients, with the most active on top and the least at the very end. Hence, if a brand is harping on hyaluronic acid yet it is sandwiched somewhere in the middle or listed last, you aren't really getting the most out of it
  • Hyaluronic acid (a.k.a hyaluronate or hyaluronan) is a naturally occurring substance found in almost every part of the human body i.e bones, cartilage, eyes, connective tissue, heart valve, lungs, among others. Skin takes the biggest chunk with about 50% of the body's total hyaluronic acid composition
  • Hyaluronic acid is responsible for maintaining the skin's moisture because of its ability to retain water. Aging and certain extrinsic factors (i.e photodamage as a consequence of many years of unprotected sun exposure) all contribute to loss of moisture. Interestingly, hyaluronic acid has a fast turnover rate: less than 24 hrs in the skin which supports the need for replenishment
  • In the dermis (a.k.a "true skin", found below the epidermis and above subcutaneous layer,  composed of collagen, elastin, blood vessels, sebaceous glands) collagen is what makes the skin look firm but it's hyaluronic acid that provide nourishment and hydration to collagen. In the field of aesthetics, hyaluronic acid is the the most commonly used dermal filler (I talked about it in details here). 
  • Hyaluronic acid as main ingredient in skincare basically acts as humectant; meaning, it just retains moisture on epidermis or outer layer of the skin. Its molecule is so big to penetrate the dermis therefore it has no influence on collagen and elastin. It merely sits on the skin where it binds to water to maintain hydration. Topically, hyaluronic acid in skincare will not reverse aging but because your skin is well moisturized, wrinkles tend to look less Quick tip: apply moisturizer when the skin is damp to trap moisture
  • But there is sodium hyaluronate, a salt derivative of hyaluronic acid which reportedly has smaller molecules that are able to penetrate dermis. Used in skincare, it has the ability to hold more water which results to tauter skin albeit temporarily. In skincare, hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate are used interchangeably but bear in mind that they are not one and the same just like how you and your sibling have the same last name but with different genetic configuration. 
So let's study my skincare stash and see if we spot either hyaluronic acid or sodium hyaluronate. I have underlined those that I like and italicized the ingredient I wish it didn't have (personal preference or otherwise) or in the gray area.
 press samples
hyaluronic acid in skincare, sodium hyaluronate in skincare, derma e hydrating serum,

Derma-E Hydrating Serum Hyaluronic Acid ($29.50, 2 fl oz/ 60ml). Company description "The secret to silky-smooth skin. This intensely moisturizing serum is full of skin-loving nutrients that nourish, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and leaves skin feeling soft and smooth".
Ingredients: Purified Water, Glycerin (Vegetable Derived) , Cetearyl Alcohol (Plant Derived), Ceteareth-20, Dimethicone, Sodium Hyaluronate (Hyaluronic Acid; Actimoist® Bio-1), Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C Ester), Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer (Aristoflex®), Panthenol (Provitamin B5), Allantoin, Alanine, Leucine, Tyrosine, Glycine, Valine, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Fragrance.
My personal opinion: Derma-E is one of my favorite cruelty-free and paraben-free skincare brand. I'm glad that they revamped their packaging, blue and white combo is more visually appealing and calming! Overall I like this serum because I feel tautness every time I use it; while it smells good, the floral/chemical scent can be too overwhelming to some. I spot sodium hyaluronate (#6 in 21 ingredients) which is mixed with other skin-hydrating formula. I also like that it has a derivative of Vitamin C (ascorbyl palmitate). I spot hyaluronic acid side by side with their proprietary concoction, Actimoist® Bio-1 which according to the company website is "a safe alternative to animal-derived hyaluronic acid, being that it's produced from bacterial fermentation". But basically you get what I meant earlier, it's really sodium hyaluronate (penetrates dermis) but hyaluronic acid (can't penetrate dermis) is hyped on the packaging. Actimoist® Bio-1 is not a standard name in INCI but rather proprietary to Derma E. Traditionally, hyaluronic acid is sourced from rooster comb but modern day technology has shifted the production using microbial fermentation because it's cheaper and cruelty-free (source NCBI).

hyaluronic acid in skincare, sodium hyaluronate in skincare, jan marini hyla3d

New in my stash but enjoying it, Jan Marini Hyla3D HA Activating Complex ($125, 30 ml/ 1 fl oz). Company description "Revitalize and volumize with Hyla3d HA Activating Complex. Take a 3-dimensional approach to restore skin's hydration and youthful volume (1) multiple forms of hyaluronic acid for deep and long lasting hydration (2) advanced technologies enhance hyaluronic acid within the skin (3) peptides and oxidants boost collagen and elastin.
Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Saccharomyces Lysate Extract, Oligopeptide-24, Ubiquinone, Calcium Ketogluconate, Peucedanum Graveolens (Dill) Extract, Panthenol, Lecithin, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Tocopherol, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Xanthan Gum, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Potassium Phosphate, Pentylene Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Oleate, Citric Acid, Isoceteth-10, Silica, Lactobacillus Ferment, Alcohol, Hexylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol.
My personal opinionIt doesn't say anything on the bottle that it has hyaluronic acid but if you're a skincare junkie, you know what HA stands for in skincare. I like that this serum feels light on the skin, dries fast and leaves a velvety soft mantle. I also like that it's fragrance free. I see sodium hyaluronate right away (#4 and #6 from 35 ingredients) as standalone and cross-linked to make the molecules penetrate dermis. I see alcohol and as previously mentioned, while its use in skincare is largely debatable, I prefer not to have it if I were to create my own skincare line. I use this in the morning in conjunction with Vitamin C.

hyaluronic acid in skincare, sodium hyaluronate in skincare, elta md barrier renewal complex

We carry some eltaMD products at our clinic because they are directly promoted to doctors with clinical studies to boot. While it doesn't mention anything on the bottle that it has hyaluronic acid, I would like to include Barrier Renewal Complex ($45, 1.7 oz/ 48 g) because my prying eyes spotted hyaluronic acid in the ingredient list. Company description "EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex restores the vibrant glow of youth by improving the tone and texture of your skin. Five unique ceramides replenish moisture loss and increase water retention to soften lines and wrinkles and instantly comfort dry skin. Enzymes and essential lipids strengthen your complexion and promote cell turnover to make your skin bright and smooth".
Ingredients: Purified Water, Ethylhexyl Isononanoate, Niacinamide, Glycerin, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Dimethicone, Ceramide NP, Cholesterol, Ceramide EOS, Cetyl Alcohol, Ceramide NS, Ceteareth-25, Ceramide EOP, Caprooyl Sphingosine, Caprooyl Phytosphingosine, Ceramide AP, Hyaluronic Acid, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/ Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Xylitylglucoside, Squalane, Anhydroxylitol, PEG-7 Trimethylolpropane Coconut Ether, Polyisobutene, Piptadenia Colubrina Peel Extract, Actinidia Chinensis (Kiwi) Fruit Extract , Bromelain, Tocopherol, Xylitol, Ficin, Glutamine, Biotin, Proline, Behenic Acid, Carbomer, Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Butylene Glycol, Benzyl Alcohol, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol, Hexadecanol, Sodium Bisulfite, Disodium EDTA.
My personal opinion: This stuff is very hydrating which makes it ideal during winter/cold weather. It's quite sticky when rubbed but once it sits on top of the skin, my face looks and feels soft. Whenever I use this at night as last step to skincare (I rotate products), I wake up with extra glowing skin but I use several products so it's more like a synergistic effect. I see HA but I doubt if it has any significant bearing because we don't know how much of it is present plus it's mixed with other moisture-rich formula. I like that it has Niacinamide (a.k.a Vitamin B3, I will cover this on another post) but offhand, it claims to help skin look supple and soft. Again, there's alcohol, although listed least but I'm not a fan nonetheless.

hyaluronic acid in skincare, sodium hyaluronate in skincare, murad hydrodynamic ultimate moisture

Murad Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisture ($75, 1.7 fl oz/ 50 ml). Company description "A clinically proven anti-aging moisturizer to relieve dry, dehydrated skin and restore youthful resilience and tone. Hydro-Dynamic® Ultimate Moisture is clinically proven to lock optimal moisture levels in the skin while delivering instant comfort. This super-hydrating antiaging formula is moisture rich, yet light and non-greasy. Collagen support complex helps restore youthful resilience and plumpness to dry skin while avocado, sunflower, and olive fruit oils enhance skin’s ability to retain maximum levels of hydration. Retinyl palmitate and shea butter improve texture and tone while restoring natural smoothness and softness. This gentle formula is safe for sensitive skin and is ideal for use with any Murad regimen as a step three moisturizer. It comforts and restores youthful hydration to dry skin as part of Dr. Murad’s Inclusive Health® System of care".
Ingredients: Water, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glycerin, Sunflower Seed Oil, Butylene Glycol, Glyceryl Stearate, Glyceryl Behenate/Eiosadioate, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Shea Butter, Cetearyl Alcohol, Myristyl Myristate, Cetyl Alcohol, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenyl Trimethicone, Stearic Acid, Oat Kernel Extract, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Extract, Laminaria Digitata Extract, Yeast Amino Acids, Betaine, Inositol, Taurine, Trehalose, Soybean Sterols, Corn Starch, Olive Fruit Oil, Avocado Oil, Sodium Hyaluronate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Linoleic Acid, Phospholipids, Polysorbate 60, Acrylamide/Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, Glyceryl Polymethacrylate, Panthenol, Jojoba Alcohol, Potassium Jojobate, Polysorbate 80, Urea, Glucosamine HCI, PEG-8, Bisabolol, Sorbitan Oleate, Cetearyl Methicone, Dimethicone, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Retinyl Palmitate, Allantoin, Xanthan Gum, Disodium EDTA, BHT, Ethylhexylglycerin, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol.
My personal opinion: Long before I started this blog, Murad is a staple most especially their anti-acne line so I am always excited to try anything from this brand. More than a moisturizer, I find this product a nice makeup primer so if you need extra hydration pre-makeup, this is like 2-in-1 gem. Again, the packaging does not harp on hyaluronic acid but I spotted sodium hyaluronate (#29 from a long 60-ingredient list) tucked away in combination with all other moisture-rich formula. I have italicized retinyl palmitate despite it being a derivative of Vitamin A (excellent for skin texture) because it's listed least but it's hyped on the website as if it's the most active ingredient. 

And so I repeat, because in real world, perfection does not exist. My point is not to negate the various claims presented by the aforementioned brands or the rationale behind their chosen ingredient mix. Skincare after all is relative. What works for you may not for me and vice versa. But it does help to read the label because if you won't, then who else will? Informed decision certainly beats impulse purchase.

Sculpsure Laser Body Contouring

Sculpsure Laser Body Contouring is one of the aesthetic procedures we do at our clinic. To date, it is the first and only FDA-approved laser treatment for stubborn body fat (i.e abdomen, love handles) that most of us can't get rid of despite diet and exercise. It permanently destroys up to 24% of fat cells in the area of treatment and unless you gain significant weight, those are gone for good! Your body gets rid of those destroyed fat cells through the lymphatics and while results vary from patient to patient, most that we have treated so far saw amazing results between 6-12 weeks after their first treatment. The more pincheable fat you have, the more realistic you should be when it comes to expectations. In general, you can achieve your body goals with 2 or 3 treatments. Sculpsure is a quick 25-minute procedure (30 minutes if you include photo-taking, fitting and adjustment of the belt) and has no downtime, surgery and anesthesia involved. One important thing I always tell patients is that Sculpsure is not a weight loss program but if you combine it with healthy and active lifestyle, this body investment as I call it is all worth it. Depending on your location, Sculpsure costs anywhere from $1500-$2500 per area of treatment.

Sculpsure utilizes 4 paddles (made of sapphire glass) which emit infrared laser specifically targeting the subcutaneous fat. The first four minutes is the build-up phase, and the remaining 21 minutes is the procedure itself. Overall it's tolerable but depending on your threshold, you may feel a sensation somewhat similar to dysmenorrhea. It goes thru a cycle of warm (25 seconds) and cool (10 seconds) and in the event of discomfort, the energy setting is adjusted or you maybe given extra 10 seconds of cooling. Regardless whether you are on the lowest setting, as long as you feel the warmth with very minor contraction, your results won't be compromised. I stay with my patients the entire time for evaluation plus it makes them feel at ease, at least based from their feedback. You will be asked to return to the clinic after 6 weeks and 12 weeks for evaluation including a before/after photo comparison. If you decide to proceed with 2 or 3 treatments of the same area(s), then you need to space out the next session between 4 to 6 weeks from the initial treatment. Reason being, the macrophages (type of white blood cell that engulfs cellular debris including dead fat cells) reach the treatment site in about 4 weeks. Interestingly, since new collagen is formed in response to laser, some skin tightening is also observed among patients. As mentioned, there are no activity restrictions but I do want to emphasize frequent hydration (water) and massaging the area twice a day for few minutes to facilitate drainage.

While I can explain to patients the whole concept of this breakthrough laser body treatment, nothing beats seeing the actual results straight from the horse's mouth. If you know me, I pretty much lead quite a healthy lifestyle (still need to work on my sweet tooth 'tho). But see, the dreaded pouch is as stubborn as my head, haha! So yeah, I put Sculpsure to test and after 6 weeks (when the photos below were taken), the results are in. For reference, I treated my upper and lower abdomen. I didn't feel any pain after the procedure but it felt quite tender to touch for about a week. The treated areas felt jiggly for about 3 weeks. And if the following photos weren't convincing enough, I went from pant size 27 to 25 or petite small depending on the brand (i.e True Religion size 25, Vince Camuto leggings petite small)

Unretouched photos. And yes, I have stretch marks too!
Side view: you can see that my lower pouch was reduced in size significantly. The upper pouch was less protruding as well.
Front view: gosh, my belly button went from "smirk to ahh", look it opened up, signaling loss of fat! You can also see my sides looking quite hourglass and it's only been 6 weeks! Take note, optimal results are achieved in 12 weeks so I can't wait to see more changes. 

Disclaimer: As Aesthetic Registered Nurse, I voluntarily subject myself to certain aesthetic procedures so I can explain and level patient's expectations if need be. If you live in Oahu, Hawaii and you are interested with Sculpsure, check out our clinic in Kapolei or better yet, inbox me for further questions. For all other states, this locator guide can help you.

MAC Nudes Collection, MAC Persistence, MAC Taupe, MAC Antique Velvet, MAC Velvet Teddy, MAC Myth, MAC Patisserie

What's your kind of nude lipstick? I am drawn to warm browns as they compliment my skin tone perfectly. The only thing to be wary about is that they seem to make your teeth look yellow so coffee or tea- stained teeth need extra brightening care, oh yeah myself included! Lately I have been rocking MAC lipsticks so I thought of sharing few neutrals from my collection.

MAC Nudes Collection, MAC Persistence, MAC Taupe, MAC Antique Velvet, MAC Velvet Teddy, MAC Myth, MAC Patisserie

I have 4 mattes, 1 satin and 1 lustre. In my opinion, MAC remains the master of matte formula, high pigment opacity and non-drying! My very first MAC matte lipstick dates back to 1996. I received my first official salary as a working adult (pharmaceutical sales representative) so I gladly treated myself to what I consider a high end makeup back in the day. I cannot remember the exact name shade but it was brick brown and it drew compliments from colleagues and strangers alike. Fast forward to present day, I have two shades, Persistence and Taupe, which are pretty close to it.

MAC Nudes Collection, MAC Persistence, MAC Taupe, MAC Antique Velvet, MAC Velvet Teddy, MAC Myth, MAC Patisserie

affiliate links are used
Velvet Teddy (matte) is peachy pink.
Myth (satin) is cool-toned light nude. I don't wear it on its own as I look ghostly but I like to layer it  on top to tone down any loud lipstick which seems to clash with my eye makeup.
Persistence (matte) is brick brown, a tad lighter than the mystery shade I bought in 1996. Funny how lipstick triggers catharsis, too much memories in the 90s!
Taupe (matte) is red brown.
Antique Velvet (matte) is blackened brown. Whenever I wear it, I am reminded of The Craft movie, particularly Fairuza Balk. Tell me you know this movie!
Patisserie (lustre) is nude pink with minute gold specks. It's hydrating and nothing that screams glitter. 

For my photo below, I am wearing Persistence, it's a no-brainer shade for everyday wear, just how I wear black outfit every single day.

MAC Nudes Collection, MAC Persistence, MAC Taupe, MAC Antique Velvet, MAC Velvet Teddy, MAC Myth, MAC Patisserie

Shop my MAC Nudes stash 

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